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31 Great Independent Developers in one month.

Interview with Bifrost's Erlend Grefsrud, Co-Founder (Part One)

IndieMonth | 562d ago
User blog

Erlend Grefsrud, Co-Founder of Bifrost Entertainment, chatted with Cat about the semi-mystical founding of Bifrost, why he thinks the Xbox One is “ill-conceived”, why you have to be crazy to start a game company in Norway, and games art.

CAT: Maja and Myriad don’t have a lot in common other than the letter “M” - what is your process for determining a game concept and direction?

Erlend: Games are so exciting because there's so much virgin territory. Sure, we have a map of the known world, but there are lots of regions simply marked Here Be Dragons. And I'm a bit of a dragon-slayer, so I like to head out there and see what I can find.

I usually start by looking at the state of games, at what's been explored, what's working, what's established as good practice -- and then I try to do something different. Obviously, I still stick to first principles and my general vision of What Games Are, I have no particular need to challenge that, but I want to expand that vision, present a new one that subsumes and exceeds the old one.

The goal with Myriad was to place the game system completely in players' hands. I want players to feel like they are making the game happen, rather than negotiating the vision of the developers.

I don't need to show players my clever ideas and make them live my vision -- I want them to explore the potential, and feel that they are just as much an active and creative part of the game experience. That's why I've shied away from narrative -- it forces too much on the player, makes the game more about my story than their experience.

Image from Myriad

CAT: Who is Bifrost Games and how exactly did this winter storm bring about your founding?

Erlend: Bifrost Games is the older, wiser successor to my first company, Strongman Games. I founded Strongman with Kalli Karlsson and Rohan Feldmesser in London in 2009, and we had a lot going for us -- everything but experience.

Kalli and I founded Bifrost along with partners from Norway while Strongman was still going, since Norway was finally developing a broader and more culturally relevant games scene and we wanted to be part of it.

We learned a lot of hard lessons from crash-landing Strongman, and that's really how Bifrost got properly started. We swallowed our pride, we looked at our mistakes, we decided to do it again, but better, stronger and faster.

That's Bifrost. The rainbow bridge connecting the land of mortals to the land of gods. 

CAT: Myriad is coming to Windows, Mac and Linux - what about consoles? 
What do you think of the current generation of consoles?

Erlend: We are aiming for release on the full range of PlayStation platforms, or at least the Vita and PS4. Neither Microsoft nor Nintendo have particularly clear or open licensing agreements, so we're holding off on them until the game is done and ready to be tailored for each platform. Since I'm developing in Unity, I can reach all the current-gen platforms no problem, and obviously the goal is to do that.

I'm also sorta-kinda interested in doing an iOS interpretation, but since the core gameplay simply can't be translated to iOS, it would be a pretty big job and I'm not sure the iOS market will embrace something as esoteric as Myriad. It would be fun, but probably pretty expensive and time-consuming as well.

I'm not entirely sure what I think about the consoles yet. The PS4 is primarily interesting because it, well, focuses on games, and I'm actually really excited about the streaming functionality. It's great that Sony recognizes that playing games can actually be a form of expression, and that there is value in watching games being played, not just playing them!

The Xbox One looks pretty ill-conceived to me. The Kinect is a complete fiasco, and it was doomed from the start. It's pretty telling of Microsoft's long-term strategic goals that they decided to foist it on gamers, and I'm very glad they've failed. I don't think Microsoft cares at all about games as a form, I think they saw games as a trojan horse for getting a media centre into people's homes. They've pretty much said so in the past.

I do love Nintendo, but mostly for their games and not for their hardware. The 3DS is a fun toy, and so is the Wii U, but it's hard to get excited about them as platforms when they are so clearly tailored to Nintendo's own products.

That's good for Nintendo, and I can't wait to see what they do with the Wii U, but I'm not exactly eager to make games for it. I'm more interested in seeing what Nintendo decides to do with it -- they haven't really let me down yet.

Image from Myriad

CAT: Have any plans to explore VR?

Erlend: Well, it would be pretty hilarious to put Myriad on VR, since it uses orthographic rather than perspective cameras, and if you think the early Oculus Rift demos were nauseating, Myriad will probably send you to hospital.

As for virtual reality as a form, that's more interesting. I'm not entirely convinced that the VR is particularly suited for games outside the first-person perspective, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I'd love to do something odd, like make a hacking game that's like the crazy VR sequences from early nineties movies, where the whole conceit is that you're trapped or at least wholly immersed in cyberspace. That would justify making the player a bit nauseous and playing with the possibilities of VR outside immersing you in environments as we usually understand them.

So yes, VR is cool. I don't expect it to change the world or anything, but if it settles into a nice little niche of hardcore enthusiasts that I can make weird and different games for, that's awesome.

CAT: What are your thoughts on Oculus VR?

Erlend: I really admire John Carmack, so I'm very interested in whatever he spends his time on, but I'm not overly fond of the Facebook connection. I've got an active imagination, and it's not exactly hard to imagine a world where all our relationships are mediated, where we edit our perception of reality to suit ourselves. Facebook wanting to perch screens on people’s noses brings us closer to such a future.

There is, of course, the possibility that Facebook "just" wants to make a cool virtual world you can play in with an avatar generated from your Facebook photos, with your Facebook friends. It would also be pretty cool if Facebook decided to treat the Oculus as a kind of console, with the world's biggest social network as backend. 

But I don't really think so -- Facebook is ultimately an advertising company, not an entertainment company, and that leads me to expect the worst.

Continue reading with Part Two here:

Day 26 | Bifrost Entertainment

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yoshiroaka  +   562d ago
Always interesting to hear developers views on the consoles on the market that are frank and to the point and not just tip toeing around the issues so as to not hurt any business relationships that they may want in the future. I appreciate that.

Cool that he's making a game on unity. Ive tinkered around with that a few times. Wanna see what he managed to make with it.
LightDiego  +   562d ago
Would be great this game for PS4 and Vita.
Really interesting interview.
Derekvinyard13  +   562d ago
Lmao myriad on vr would send you to the hospital
Crazyglues  +   562d ago
Yeah I too think Carmack is genius/ as I'm sure everyone does / always nice to see who developers look to as inspiration, so it will be interesting to see what happens with Oculus VR now that it's facebook owned, but I don't think the plan is to, - "perch screens on people’s noses to bring us closer to such a future."

- I think the plan is to keep it as what it is, but have facebook as the back-drop like with Whatsapp, were it didn't become a facebook app/ Just became owned by them - but I can see why he would expect the worst.

-and yes please do keep your eye on PS4 it may be one of the best places for these games, more and more indie games are shining there../ and I agree with him on XboxOne being pretty ill-conceived.

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oasdada  +   562d ago
On VR-"Myriad will probably send you to the hospital"

Lol was thinking the exact same thing
ichizon  +   562d ago
I'm hoping that Facebook has no ill intent with the VR tech as well. It would e a shame to see it fall into proprietary hell with licencing fees, forced ads and usage statistics.

That said, I believe the Facebook connection has been very good for the development so far, and it could very well be that they are invested in a product Zuckerberg believes will be the next big thing. Some kind of monetization is inevitable though, but to what extent?
Volt4FUN  +   562d ago
This game for PS vita is great idea.
Monster_Tard  +   562d ago
"I don't think Microsoft cares at all about games as a form, I think they saw games as a trojan horse for getting a media centre into people's homes."

Completely agree, the 360 was my console last gen, it started out with it's main focus on games and then latter turned into a media box. When they announced the X1 with all it's bad polices and T.V. focus, I switched to the other side, they now seem to be trying to focus on games, but I've already seen that they don't understand gamers, they're just people who throw around money in an attempt to make money.
shadowvisa  +   562d ago
good read
dictionary  +   562d ago
One of the strangest game I've ever seen
SpeedDemon  +   562d ago
"Myriad will probably send you to hospital."

Yay seizures!
Emilio_Estevez  +   562d ago
Best VR pitch evar!

Interesting to see how open he was about Microsoft and how he feels about them, while at the same time saying he wants to release on it.
LukeFair  +   562d ago
I like the metaphore he did by comparing videogames developing to a RPG world, where he constanly try to "explore" new parts of it and being an innovator developer.

By the way, nice to know that this is coming to Vita! I'll get a copy for mine when Myriad is realeased
DemonChicken  +   562d ago
Oh yes coming to the VITA, lol the site just mentioned windows and more platforms!

I like the art, but I agree that this won't fit VR unless it was from a 1st view like driving or fps type games
HammadTheBeast  +   562d ago
Awesome that it's coming to Vita as well as PS4. The XBO situation is unfortunate, but maybe in some time. Overall, sounds like a pretty cool guy, the focus on the experience itself is nice, and kind of reminds me of Journey and Flower.
MisterAV  +   562d ago
On the console side I agree with him completely...
rambi80  +   562d ago
Thanks in advance for that vita version.

"I do love Nintendo, but mostly for their games and not for their hardware" - pretty much sums up why everyone wants them to go third party - i would love my 3ds games on my vita.
gaffyh  +   562d ago
I want that artwork on my walls and as a screensaver! Looks stunning.
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Disagree  +   562d ago
Nice to hear your opinion on so many topics
XtraTrstrL  +   562d ago
"That's Bifrost. The rainbow bridge connecting the land of mortals to the land of gods."

LOL, alrighty then, sounds coo'.
BiggCMan  +   562d ago
Myriad sounds crazy! I might have to try it some day!
RexDD  +   562d ago
Yay Vita release confirmed!
ldurham  +   562d ago
I would love to play this on a PS4 with a big screen TV and really nice speakers.
FITgamer  +   562d ago
PS4 for sure.
Darklurkr23  +   562d ago
I get a huge Smoking Game vibe from this XD
Fullmetalevolust  +   562d ago
I couldn't help but agree with his stance on current gaming consoles. I've always bought into systems that push games forward, whether it's graphically or creatively.
It sounds as though he's been in the business since 2009 with his first studio and now has moved on to something he truly believes in. Best of luck to Bifrost.
And agreed, I'd never want to play this kind of game on VR, I'd foam at the mouth the first few seconds.
JoelandEllie  +   562d ago
Its really cool that indie devs getting more respect from the console makers. A lot of these guys will grow to replace the now extinct mid -tier
Virtua_Awesome  +   562d ago
It's nice to hear such a direct opinion from a developer about the current consoles and so on. You don't hear that very often. (Although, I certainly wouldn't classify the brilliant 3DS as a "toy" :P)

And yeah, Myriad on VR probably would put you in the hospital! xD I like his idea of a hacking game in VR. I would love to see what a creative studio like Bifrost would do with VR, there are just so many possibilities.

I really hope that Facebook doesn''t end up hurting the Oculus Rift as well. Man, that Facebook buyout sent shivers down my spine :(
MrxDeath  +   562d ago
" We are aiming for release on the full range of PlayStation platforms, or at least the Vita and PS4. "

i will be happy to see it on PS4
MYDEATH21  +   562d ago
I was shocked to see their view on the Xbox one controversy.. Lol indie devs are awesome. They tell it how it is.
dota2champion  +   562d ago
of course VR won't change the gaming world. It will be another gaming gimmick no different than motion controller, kinct, & 3D gaming. but I imagine playing Myriad with VR will be like going through DMT, am i right?
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